funerary-steles

Relief from the Funerary Chapel of Sehetepibre 

13th Dynasty, Middle Kingdom

c.1802-1640 BC

The “overseer of troops” Sehetepibre, son of Satankhu was the owner of a commemorative chapel that housed two relief slabs in the collection. On these slabs, he is seen seated at an offering table, and members of his family are depicted as mummies.
Althought hieroglyphs could be written in either direction, the preference was to write from right to left. Thus, the list of Sehetepibre’s family begins at the right of this slab with the two larger mummies identified as Sehetepibre himself and the “lady of the house” Djehutihotep (perhaps his wife). Beside them, from right to left are the couple’s daughter Satankhu; Seka, son of Satmay; Seshemi, daughter of Setankhu; Senebes, daughter of Gifit; and the “overseer of troops” Khentikheti, son of Renesankh.

(Source: The Metropolitan Museum)

Archaeological Museum of Dion:

From Pydna, funeral stele depicting mother, child and cockerel. Second half of 5th century B.C

Here is one of the earliest known reliefs to commemorate the legitimate marriages of former Roman slaves. 

The Funerary Stele of Aurelius Hermia and his wife Aurelia Philematium is from the tomb on Via Nomentana, and dates to ca. 80 BCE.

The British Museum provides the following prose translation of the funerary stele:

“Aurelius Hermia, freedman of Lucius, butcher by trade from the Viminal Hill. My partner who departed this life before me was pure of body and loving of spirit. She was the only one for me, and lived her life faithful to her faithful husband, with equal devotion. She never failed in her duties through self-interest or greed. Aurelia, freedwoman of Lucius.

Aurelia Philematio, freedwoman of Lucius. In life, I was given the name Aurelia Philematium (little Kiss) and led a chaste, modest and sheltered life, faithful to my husband. Aurelius, my husband, whom I now sadly miss, was a fellow freedman. He was, in fact, much more to me than even a parent. He took me into his care at the age of seven. Now at the age of forty, I fall into the hands of death. He flourished in the eyes of others due to my constant and close support.”

Courtesy of & currently located at The British Museum, London, 1867,0508.55. Photo taken by Sebastià Giralt.

Δευτέρα Φθίνοντος/ Δευτέρα μετ’εἰκάδας, XXIX day
From today’s sunset: twenty-ninth day (second waning of the third decade) of Maimakterion. ‘Impure’ day. Attested are libations for the deceased and ceremonies in their honor. Be mindful that tomorrow will be Hekate’s Deipna.

(Terracotta lekythos - A bearded man with a crooked walking stick kneels on the lower of two steps supporting a funerary stele with a gable. A young man with his body wrapped in a mantle stands at the opposite (right) side. In the gable of the gravestone two stick figures represent boxers, who are watched by two other stick figures. Two figures of young athletes are the stone sculptures (akroteria) at the edges of the gable. They hold spears or staffs, and one holds a strygil. A lyre and a discus with a triskeles in the form of three legs hang on the walls. From Athens, about 450–440 BCE. Now in the Boston Museum…)

Books / The Archaeological Museum of Thebes:

Encaustic on marble, portrait of a young man from a grave stele. The stele bears the inscription ΘΕΟΔΩΡΟΣ ΧΑΙΡΕ. The name of the man is Theodoros, while χαίρε, is a simple greeting with a special significance when addressed to a deceased person. (1st century B.C). The stele bears the inscription ΘΕΟΔΩΡΟΣ ΧΡΗΣΤΟΣ on the opposite side. It was used at a later time to signify another deceased man of the same family perhaps.

Picture from the online catalogue of the museum; The Archaeological Museum of Thebes, by Vassilios Aravantinos, Olkos publications (2010). Photography: Socrates Mavrommatis. You can peruse the book in full here

Funerary stele of Licinia Amias, one of the most ancient Christian inscriptionsearly 3rd c. CE. From the area of the Vatican necropolis, Rome..

Upper tier: dedication to the “Dis Manibus” and Christian motto in Greek letters ΙΧΘΥC ΖΩΝΤΩΝ / Ikhthus zōntōn (“fish of the living”).

Middle tier: depiction of fish and an anchor.

Lower tier: Latin inscription “LICINIAE AMIATI BE/NEMERENTI VIXIT”, (Licinia Amias lived meritoriously)

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Ancient Egyptian funerary stele in the shape of a small pyramid (pyramidion) for Ptahmose, High Priest of the god Ptah.  The deceased Ptahmose is shown seated at left, receiving offerings from his assistant Ptahankh, Choirmaster of Ptah (right).  Artist unknown; 18th Dynasty (New Kingdom).  Now in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Florence.  Photo credit: Sailko/Wikimedia Commons.

detail from the funerary stele of Baba, daughter of the Priest of the God Amon-Ra, Bes-n-Mut; from ‘Uaset’-Thebes, 650-640 BCE. Now in the National Museum of Denmark…
Baba making adorations and offerings to the God Atum (wearing the Double Crown, holding the 'Ankh’ and the 'Uas’-scepter); in the middle, the altar with various offerings

An Epitaph for the Athenian Dead of Plataea

Anthologia Palatina 7.253, attr. to Simonides

If to die nobly is the greatest part of virtue,
     Then Fortune has dealt this to us above all others.
For, zealous to wrap all Greece in a cloak of freedom,
     We lie, enjoying praise that knows no aging.

 Εἰ τὸ καλῶς θνῄσκειν ἀρετῆς μέρος ἐστὶ μέγιστον,
    ἡμῖν ἐκ πάντων τοῦτ’ ἀπένειμε τύχη·
Ἑλλάδι γὰρ σπεύδοντες ἐλευθερίην περιθεῖναι
    κείμεθ’ ἀγηράτῳ χρώμενοι εὐλογίῃ.

A warrior leans on his spear in front of a funerary stele and observes a snake, representing the soul of the dead man.  Roman-era relief sculpture (1st cent. CE) imitating the Attic style of the 5th cent. BCE.  Found on Rhodes; now in the British Museum.

Archaeological Museum of Dion:

Funerary stele depicting a young hunter with his dog. From Kitros. (4th century B.C)

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Archaeological Museum of Thebes:

Grave stele. Hellenistic period and used subsequently in the1st century B.C, possibly by members of the same family. Found at Trikalitis’ plot in Thebes. Preserved on one side, a male portrait with the inscription “Theodoros Farewell” (ΘΕΟΔΩΡΟΣ ΧΑΙΡΕ). On the other side, without a representation, the inscription “Theodoros Worthy” (ΘΕΟΔΩΡΟΣ ΧΡΗΣΤΟΣ)

This grave stele was discovered recently, and it is one of the newest additions in the exhibition of the museum. That was the main reason for wanting to visit the museum as soon as it opened. I am in a bit of a quest to document works of ancient greek painting. I first saw the portrait of “Theodoros” on an article, in a blurry photo, and then at the online guidebook of the museum. Before this, the only works of ancient greek painting I had seen up close, were the funerary stelai at Pella, and some designs on tombs at Thessaloniki. A few days ago I finally saw this portrait in person and I was elated. Theodoros looks so alive- I guess that was the point. 

Last summer I was in for a surpise when I visited the Archaeological Museum of Volos. I had seen a picture of another painted funerary stele with a woman lying in bed dying after having given birth. The quality of the photo was not very good, but the stele was to be found in a greek museum. I drove all the way to Volos just so I could see this stele, and I found dozens of them with vivid scenes and bright colors. Now there are news of two Macedonian tombs with beautiful paintings opening to the public. I think finally ancient greek painting starts gaining the attention it deserves.

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Archaeological Museum of Brauron:

An attic grave stele, found in Porto Rafti (c. 410-400 B.C)

The relief depicts three figures, while two of the inscribed names are still discernible; Kleobolos and Menon.

The young man at the middle is depicted as a palaestrite holding a strigil and an aryballos. He is depicted along with his dog, holding a small hare.The bearded man is depicted wearing an attic helmet, holding a shield and a spear. Kleobolos and Menon are the names of the athlete and the warrior respectively. At the left of the young man there is another man, probably the father of Kleobolos, draped in his himation.

The stele presents a certain interest in its architectural elements and choices of depiction. Both Kleobolos and Menon are dead. Menon could also be the trierarchos Menon (a type of naval officer), whose name appears in a catalogue of fallen men towards the end of the Peloponnesian war. The death of the young Kleobolos was the reason for the commission of this funerary monument, but his already dead relative was also included.

The lower part of the stele was discovered in a farm in Porto Rafti in the location of Drivlia in 1961/62 and was delivered in the museum in 1963. The upper part had been looted long ago. It was discovered and identified in 1990 from a published catalogue for the exhibition of the Shelby White and Leon Levy Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of New York. Professor Georgios Despines identified the exhibit and the long process for bringing it back home began. The fragment of the relief was finally delivered in Greece on the 1st of August in 2008.